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Energy in the News: Friday, August 31

-Announcement: Click here to check out this LG Chem startup innovation competition for new battery technologies and business models.

-Congratulations to Don Siegel for his receipt of the Secretary of Energy’s Achievement Award for his work on the JCESR project!

-Greg Keoleian is a co-author of “Global carbon intensity of crude oil production,” a new paper in Science.

-It’s time to register for TE3.

Anna Stefanopoulou to serve as director of Energy Institute

Michigan Engineer News Center, feat. Anna Stefanopoulou

Anna Stefanopoulou, a mechanical engineer with an expertise in modeling, control and optimization of internal combustion engines, batteries and fuel cells, will become director of the University of Michigan Energy Institute.

Her five-year appointment begins Sept. 1.

“I am very excited for this opportunity to lead an institute with such a strong reputation for solving energy challenges through the integration of social sciences, technology and policy,” said Stefanopoulou, the William Clay Ford Professor of Manufacturing, and professor of mechanical engineering, and of electrical engineering and computer science.

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Commuters: Ridesourcing could fix public transit

University of Michigan News, feat. Jonathan Levine

As public transportation systems across the country struggle with low ridership and costly underutilized lines, some are experimenting with new systems that incorporate ridesourcing services to serve “last-mile” trips or to bring commuters to their fixed routes.

But how will commuters respond to these changes?

University of Michigan researchers Xiang ‘Jacob’ Yan, a doctoral student at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning Jonathan Levine, a professor at the Taubman College, and Xilei Zhao, a postdoctoral fellow in industrial and operations engineering, sought to find out how commuters would react to tweaks in the traditional transit system.

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Bill Schuette’s environmental hypocrisy

The Detroit Free Press, feat. David Uhlmann

In his eight years as Michigan’s attorney general, Bill Schuette has been a champion for Michigan’s environment in approximately the same sense that Bill Clinton has been a poster boy for marital fidelity.

But another statewide election is drawing nigh — and unless I miss my guess, voters are about to be subjected to a glossy advertising campaign that portrays the Republican gubernatorial nominee as a stalwart defender of Michigan’s air, land and water.

Expect to see video of a shirt-sleeved Schuette listening compassionately to Flint residents whose water was poisoned on Gov. Rick Snyder’s watch (which coincided, for those keeping score at home, with Schuette’s own). An accompanying voice-over will remind viewers that the attorney general did not hesitate to prosecute officials from his own party for their conduct in Flint’s environmental catastrophe.

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Experts condemn the Trump administration’s attack on strong Clean Car Standards

Climate 411 (Environmental Defense Fund), feat. John DeCicco

Americans are already speaking out in droves against the Trump Administration’s proposal to roll back America’s Clean Car Standards.

The proposal, if finalized, would increase pollution by billions of tons, cost consumers hundreds of billions of hard-earned dollars at the gas pump, and attack long-standing state leadership on clean cars.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are now accepting public comments (you can write to them here) and they’ll hold three public hearings in September – in Fresno, California; Dearborn, Michigan; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (The administration had originally announced hearings in Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington D.C. – then abruptly cancelled them with no explanation.)

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Global warming could spur more and hungrier crop-eating bugs

The New York Times, feat. Jonathan Overpeck

A warmer world likely means more and hungrier insects chomping on crops and less food on dinner plates, a new study suggests.

Insects now consume about 10 percent of the globe’s food, but that will increase to 15 to 20 percent by the end of the century if climate change isn’t stopped, said study lead author Curtis Deutsch, a University of Washington climate scientist.

The study looked at the damage bugs like the European corn borer and the Asiatic rice borer could do as temperatures rise. It found that many of them will increase in number at key times for crops. The hotter weather will also speed up their metabolism so they’ll eat more, the researchers report in Thursday’s journal Science. Their predictions are based on computer simulations of bug and weather activity.

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Additional coverage of this topic:

‘Major transformation’ ahead for Earth’s ecosystems: study, Agence France-Presse, feat. Jonathan Overpeck, Read more

Case alleges chemical companies should prepare for unprecedented storms

National Public Radio, feat. David Uhlmann

During Hurricane Harvey last year, a chemical plant near Houston caught fire and burned for days. Now the company that owns the plant and two of its employees are facing criminal charges. As NPR’s Rebecca Hersher reports, this case is raising big questions about who should be held responsible in the era of climate change.

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Fixes to Detroit schools’ water problems won’t come cheap

Crain’s Detroit Business, feat. Peter Adriaens

As Detroit Public Schools Community District faces a building infrastructure crisis that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to fix, it’s also confronting the major investment it could take to quell concerns due to elevated lead and copper levels found in some schools’ water.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is planning to create a task force of water quality and engineering experts to “understand the cause and identify solutions,” schools spokeswoman Chrystal Wilson told Crain’s on Thursday.

Vitti decided Tuesday to shut off drinking water to all 106 district schools, after continued testing for lead and copper showed higher-than-acceptable levels in 16 out of 24 schools. Another 18 schools had previously had drinking water shut off due to concerning results from testing that started in 2016.

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How a battle to build the best weather model impacts everyone on Earth

Gizmodo, feat. Richard Rood

Hurricane Sandy was one of the most destructive storms in U.S. history. But beyond the catastrophic losses of life and property, the storm also dealt a blow to the American weather modeling community. The American weather model whiffed on the initial forecast, but its European counterpart was dead on.

Nearly six years later and the phrase “the Euro nailed Sandy” is still a running joke in the meteorological community, shorthand for both the continued superiority of the European model’s ability to predict major weather events like hurricanes while also mocking people who obsess over a model that has its own deficiencies and occasional high profile whiffs. Behind the scenes, though, the weather modeling arms race is heating up with the American model getting a major upgrade early next year.

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Toyota takes car connectivity for a spin in world’s biggest testbed

Automotive News, feat. Mcity and UMTRI

Toyota is teaming with the city of Ann Arbor, Mich., to jump-start testing of the car connectivity system that the Japanese carmaker plans to deploy stateside in 2021.

A network of roadside sensors will communicate with specially outfitted cars to improve everything from safety to traffic flow. The expanding system, expected to be the world’s largest connected-car test bed by the end of this year, is run by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and builds on a network deployed in 2012. By year end, Ann Arbor will have 75 vehicle-to-infrastructure transmitter sites scattered among its streets and some 3,150 cars plugged in.

The expansive scope of the project is an unparalleled testing opportunity, said Hideki Hada, executive engineer at Toyota’s technical strategy department for advanced safety.

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Q&A: Michigan lawmaker ends tenure with bitter campaign against utilities

Energy News Network

Michigan state Rep. Gary Glenn has spent six years in the Legislature railing against regulated energy markets, and particularly against “monopoly utility bosses” at DTE Energy and Consumers Energy.

On August 7, the Republican lawmaker’s bid to continue that crusade in the state Senate was cut short when he lost a primary race to former state Rep. Kevin Daley, 59 percent to 41 percent.

Glenn blames his loss on the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by nonprofit 501(c)(4) “social welfare” groups in support of his opponent. At least one such group, Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy, received major funding from one of the Michigan’s largest utilities, Consumers Energy.

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Average US wind price falls to $20 per megawatt-hour

Greentech Media

The middle of the United States continues driving wind prices lower. Cheap projects located in the country’s windy center have drawn the national average down to $20 per megawatt-hour, according to a new report from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The report calculates a decline in average wind prices from about $70 per megawatt-hour in 2009, to $20 per megawatt-hour in 2017 — a $50 decline in an eight-year period.

While the drop was less pronounced in the U.S.’ most resource-rich wind zone — the prices in the middle of the country fell from $55 per megawatt-hour to a bit below $20 per megawatt-hour in that same time — the overall price declines are drastic.

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Face the heat: Should EV incentives be restructured for battery degradation?

Utility Dive

The striking growth of electric vehicles (EVs) has been supported by policies intended to eliminate noxious emissions and transform the transportation sector.

A century after EVs fell out of the car market because gasoline-powered vehicles were cheaper to operate, forecasts show battery-powered transportation could take the market back because it is cleaner and becoming affordable. But controversial new research proposes revising EV policy because batteries degrade over time, increasing costs and emissions.  EV experts say the research is incomplete and outdated.

“Battery sizes and lifespans are going up and grid emissions are going down as renewables penetrations increase,” Chris Nelder, a mobility practice manager with think tank Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), emailed Utility Dive. “Question all assumptions.”

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Utilities pivot from power plants to grid work for profits

Associated Press

Electric utilities are pouring billions of dollars into a race to prevent terrorists or enemy governments from shutting down the power grid and everything that depends on electricity in America’s hyper-connected society.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security detailed last month how Russian hackers have targeted the nation’s energy grid. Officials said they could have caused major blackouts, but instead, the hackers appeared more focused on reconnaissance.

The concern over cyber-threats comes as power companies shift focus to pursue extensive upgrades in software, switches and wires to enable a much more flexible distribution of electricity.

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Trump administration reconsiders rule on coal’s mercury pollution

Reuters

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Wednesday it was reconsidering part of an Obama-era rule on emissions of mercury from coal-fired plants, in the latest move by the administration to ease regulations on an industry important to President Donald Trump’s political base.

Under the 2011 Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, or MATS, rule, coal plants have had to reduce emissions of mercury, a pollutant that can be dangerous to pregnant women and put infants and children at risk of developmental problems.

EPA spokeswoman Molly Block said the agency has issued a draft proposal on the rule that will soon be sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, beginning a review process on the plan.

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Rising CO2 levels could push ‘hundreds of millions’ into malnutrition by 2050

Carbon Brief

An additional 290 million people could face malnutrition by 2050 if little is done to stop the rise of greenhouse gas emissions, a study finds.

The increased presence of CO2 in the atmosphere could cause staple crops to produce smaller amounts of nutrients such as zinc, iron and protein, the researchers say.

Using international datasets of food consumption, the study estimates that these changes could cause an additional 175 million people to be zinc deficient and an additional 122 million people to be protein deficient by 2050.

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